International Amphitheatre

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International Amphitheatre
International Amphitheatre.jpg
International Amphitheatre
Location4220 South Halsted Street
Chicago, Illinois 60609
Owner Union Stock Yard and Transit Company (until 1983)
Capacity 9,000
DemolishedAugust 3, 1999 (began)
Construction cost$1.5 million
($28.7 million in 2019 dollars [1] )
Chicago American Gears (NBL/PBLA) (19441948)
Chicago Packers (NBA) (1961–1962)
Chicago Majors (ABL) (1961–1963)
Chicago Bulls (NBA) (1966–1967)
Chicago Cougars (WHA) (1972–1975)
Chicago Sting (NASL) (1976)
John Daly and Quincy Howe providing CBS' coverage of the 1952 political conventions John Daly News 1956.JPG
John Daly and Quincy Howe providing CBS' coverage of the 1952 political conventions

The International Amphitheatre was an indoor arena located in Chicago, Illinois, between 1934 and 1999. It was located on the west side of Halsted Street, at 42nd Street, on the city's south side, adjacent to the Union Stock Yards.


The arena was built for $1.5 million, by the Stock Yard company, principally to host the International Livestock Exhibition. The arena replaced Dexter Park, a horse-racing track that had stood on the site for over 50 years prior to its destruction by fire in May 1934. The completion of the Amphitheatre ushered in an era where Chicago reigned as a convention capital. In an era before air conditioning and space for the press and broadcast media were commonplace, the International Amphitheatre was among the first arenas to be equipped with these innovations.

The arena, which seated 9,000, was the first home of the Chicago Packers of the NBA during 196162, before changing their name to the Chicago Zephyrs and moving to the Chicago Coliseum for their second season. [2] It was also the home of the Chicago Bulls during their inaugural season of 196667; they also played only one game in the Chicago Coliseum, a playoff game in their first season, as no other arena was available for a game versus the St. Louis Hawks. Afterwards, the Bulls then moved permanently to Chicago Stadium.

The Amphitheatre was also the primary home of the Chicago Cougars of the WHA from 1972 to 1975. It was originally intended to be only a temporary home for the Cougars, but the permanent solution, the Rosemont Horizon, was not completed until 1980, five years after the team folded and a year after the WHA ceased operation. The International Amphitheatre was the home for Chicago's wrestling scene for years as well as the Chicago Auto Show for approximately 20 years beginning in the 1940s. [3] [4]

Strangely enough, on Dec 30, 1962 and Jan. 5 1964, the Chicago Amphitheatre hosted The Southside WinterNationals INDOOR Drag Races. With the smooth concrete floors, Drivers reported it was like racing on ICE. It was also reported that after the first races, cases of Coca Cola syrup were brought in, poured on the floor and allowed to dry overnight. Drivers like Arnie "The Farmer" Beswick, and Mr. Norm from Grand Spaulding Dodge later admitted the syrup did little to help traction. Staging was outside in the Chicago - January cold. Drivers did as many as 5 "burnouts" just to heat the rear tires. The shutdown area involved a sharp turn and wall that claimed more than a few of the entries.

The Amphitheatre hosted several national American political conventions:

The 1952 Republican National Convention had the distinction of being the first political convention broadcast live by television coast to coast, with special studio facilities provided for all the major networks. [5]

The 1968 Democratic National Convention was one of the most tumultuous political conventions in American history, noted by anti-war protests.

Prior to that, the Amphitheatre was noted for being the site of one of Elvis Presley's most notable concerts, in 1957, with the singer wearing his now legendary gold lame suit for the first time. [6]

On September 5, 1964 and August 12, 1966, The Beatles performed at the Amphitheatre. The 1966 show was the first show of what proved to be their last tour. [7]

On March 13–14, 1976, the Midwest Regional of the North American Soccer League's 1976 Indoor tournament was hosted by the Chicago Sting at the Amphitheater. The Rochester Lancers won the Region to advance to the Final Four played in Florida. [8]

In October 1978, English rock group UFO recorded parts of what would become Strangers in the Night at the International Amphitheatre.

The Stock Yards closed in 1971, but the Amphitheatre remained open, hosting rock concerts, college basketball and IHSA playoff games, circuses, religious gatherings, and other events. The shift of many conventions and trade shows to the more modern and more conveniently-located lakefront McCormick Place convention center during the 1960s and 1970s began the International Amphitheatre's decline; as other convention and concert venues opened in the suburbs, its bookings dropped more.

In December 1981, Joe Frazier had his final boxing match at the Amphitheatre against Floyd Cummings, which resulted in a draw.

Sold in 1983 for a mere $250,000, the sprawling Amphitheatre became difficult to maintain, and proved unable to attract enough large events to pay for its own upkeep. It was eventually sold to promoters Cardenas & Fernandez and then the City of Chicago, which had no more success at attracting events than its previous owner. In August 1999, demolition of the International Amphitheatre began. [4] An Aramark Uniform Services plant is located on the site once occupied by the Amphitheatre.

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1956 Democratic National Convention

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1952 Democratic National Convention

The 1952 Democratic National Convention was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois from July 21 to July 26, 1952, which was the same arena the Republicans had gathered in a few weeks earlier for their national convention from July 7 to July 11, 1952. Four major candidates sought the presidential nomination: U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Governor Adlai Stevenson II of Illinois, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia and Averell Harriman of New York.

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  1. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–" . Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  2. Hareas, John. "A Colorful Tradition". Washington Wizards. Retrieved 2008-03-19.
  3. Tito, Rich (April 21, 2004). "Regional Territories-WWA Indianapolis". Kayfabe Memories. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  4. 1 2 Boylan, Anthony Burke (May 30, 1999). "Amphitheatre Gets Its Final Curtain Call". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  5. "TV Goes to the Conventions". Popular Mechanics : 94–97. June 1952.
  6. Cora, Casey (January 8, 2015). "Elvis in Chicago Was 'Electrifying': An 80th Birthday Celebration". . Archived from the original on March 16, 2016.
  7. "Live: International Amphitheatre, Chicago". The Beatles Bible. Retrieved 2016-02-03.
  8. Milbert, Neil (March 13, 1976). "Opener for the Sting tonight". Chicago Tribune . p. 5, Section 2.
Events and tenants
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Chicago Packers

Succeeded by
Chicago Coliseum
Preceded by
first arena
Home of the
Chicago Bulls

Succeeded by
Chicago Stadium

Coordinates: 41°49′1″N87°38′48″W / 41.81694°N 87.64667°W / 41.81694; -87.64667